Who is Liable for a School Bus Accident?
Recently, five students were hospitalized after their school bus crashed into another vehicle. Although an investigation into the cause of the crash is still pending, there is some evidence that the bus driver may have been distracted at the time of the accident. Accidents like these are far too common and in some cases, have serious and even deadly consequences. Although it is possible to collect compensation from the parties responsible for these types of crashes, it can be difficult, so if your child was recently injured in a school bus crash, it is important to retain an experienced motor vehicle accident attorney who can help protect your child’s interests.
Deciding who is liable for a school bus accident can be difficult. For instance, many people assume that the school district is automatically liable for any accidents. However, in many cases, schools contract transportation out to private bus companies, which can further confuse the issue. When bus services are provided by a private company, it is critical to examine the contract between the entities, which should contain specific duties. For example, if a bus picks up a student who uses a wheelchair, the driver must have certain training so as to be able to properly load the child safely. However, if a school fails to take the following actions, it can still be held liable for any injuries:
- Include a provision requiring specific training in the contract;
- Reasonably monitor the contractor’s activities, and
- Use ordinary care when hiring the contractor.
School Bus Maintenance
Most schools own their own school buses. In these cases, they are liable for hiring qualified drivers and maintaining the vehicles in accordance with state and federal regulations, which include:
- Ensuring that buses are kept in safe operating condition through the performance of systematic preventive maintenance;
- Inspecting buses semiannually;
- Requiring drivers to perform daily pre-trip inspections; and
- Requiring drivers to promptly report any problems with the vehicles in writing.
If, after analyzing the accident report, it becomes obvious that a mechanical error contributed to or caused the accident, the driver and the school district can be held liable for their failure to enforce these rules. This also applies in situations where a driver’s lack of training caused the accident or a driver was negligently hired.
School buses must also have specific equipment, including:
- A non-leaking exhaust system;
- A first-aid kit;
- A fire extinguisher;
- Unbroken safety glass on all of the windows;
- An inside rear view mirror that gives the driver a clear view of any cars approaching from the rear; and
- Seats that are securely anchored.
Florida law also requires that all school buses be covered by liability insurance to protect students. These policies must be in the following amounts:
- $5,000 multiplied by the rated seating capacity of the bus; or
- $100,000, or whichever is greater.
These policies ensure that in the event of an accident, injured parties are able to receive some compensation for their losses, although they may need to file a claim against the school district in court if these policies do not cover the entire cost of treating a child’s injuries.
Contact an Experienced Motor Vehicle Accident Attorney
Please contact Boone & Davis in Fort Lauderdale to speak with an experienced attorney who can evaluate your case for free. We are eager to assist you with your case.